What it takes to sell Canadian smartphone users on a mobile app

A recent research report suggests businesses creating mobile software may have to overcome some big barriers to achieve many downloads

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Canadian smartphone app usage

Mobile devices and applications have quickly gone from a novelty to a norm, and businesses that offer mobile services are competing in the most difficult environment since the invention of the smartphone.

A recent survey of 1,100 smartphone owners in Canada, conducted by Catalyst and GroupM Next, sheds some light on significant changes taking place in the Canadian mobile device ecosystem. With fewer applications per phone, Canadians are proving to be more conscious of what they download and keep on their device, forcing businesses to be more conscious about the applications they offer.

More Smartphone Owners 

While it may come as no surprise that more Canadians own smartphones this year than did last year, the increase from year to year is nothing short of staggering. In its 2014 study, Catalyst and GroupM Next found that 55 per cent of Canadians owned smartphones, compared with 68 per cent this year, representing a 24 per cent jump. Furthermore, as technology lifecycles continue to decrease, Canadians are switching phones faster than ever. In 2014 the average survey participant owned 2.12 phones over their lifetime, while respondents in 2015 owned an average of 2.37, representing a 12 per cent increase in just one year. Furthermore, according to Google’s Consumer Barometer, Canadians owned an average of three connected devices in 2014, up from two in 2012.

Usage Time and Locations in Canada

The Catalyst study also found that Canadians use their smartphones for different purposes when they are “at home,” “at work” or “on the go.” Over the last 12 months, at home usage has increased while on the go usage has declined. The study’s authors suggest that data and power limitations of on the go usage might be driving user ship towards locations that offer a power outlet and WiFi access. Another possible explanation is that apps are seeing more usage as the day progresses. According to a recent study by Citrix, mobile usage peaks around 8 p.m., suggesting that evenings are prime time for mobile audiences.

Location Shapes Usage 

With this shift towards at home usage, Canadians are opting for bigger screens, less battery and memory draining apps, and more browser surfing. Over the last year the average number of applications on Canadian smartphones dropped dramatically, from 26 down to 19. In 2012, Nielson reported that the average American smartphone housed 41 apps.  The Catalyst study’s authors speculate that the novelty of applications has begun wearing off, while operating systems provide more transparent information in regards to the amount of battery and memory each app occupies, leading many to delete unnecessary apps and instead access those same services on a mobile browser.

App Competition is Getting Fierce

As a result of this trend towards dropping unnecessary apps, competition within the application space is increasing.  Users will rarely keep two apps that accomplish the same thing, and the app that remains on their phone will likely be the one that accomplishes that task while using the least amount of power, bandwidth and memory. This is particularly true for apps that are primarily used on the go, where users are more conscious of their battery and data usage.

The Takeaway

For businesses, less is more when it comes to their app offering, both in terms of the number of apps they provide and in the amount of resources, such as data, battery and memory, they require. Businesses that want to create on the go applications should focus on maximizing value while reducing battery, data and memory needs. If they are unable to do so, they should instead focus their resources towards providing a mobile friendly website that can provide the same value as an application without requiring as much of the phone’s resources.

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